Aiken students hear powerful message against distracted driving

News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, March 13, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Hayley Neiling now knows just how bad she is at texting and driving.

"Texting and driving is bad,” said Neiling, a student at South Aiken High School.

The South Aiken High student flattened some cones and ran over others as she texted behind the wheel of the South Carolina Highway Patrol's golf cart in a demonstration at her school.

"I did pretty terribly because I'm an OK driver without a phone, and then like, they gave me a phone, and according to the officer, I ended up in a ditch."

The message brought by the South Carolina Highway Patrol, Subway Restaurants and the DECA team at the school is for the students to stop texting and driving.

A group of about 70 students heard from troopers, their principal and Jon Humphrey, who knows all too well the price of distracted driving. His son, Jonathan Humphrey II, was one of the last traffic fatalities of 2011 in South Carolina. He was only 17 years old.

"The gentleman that killed him was doing 85 miles per hour in a 35 zone on impact, and he was distracted by -- he'd dropped his bottle of alcohol and was trying to get it out of the floorboard,” Humphrey Sr. said.

From a lectern in front of the school, the father spoke to the students. Certain students held pictures of his son off to the side. Many were graphic photos from after the wreck. One showed the 17-year-old in his coffin.

"In that last picture down there, that's where we celebrated Jonathan's 18th birthday,” he said, pointing to a shot of his son’s tombstone.

"Every day, [my wife and I] leave our house to go to the doctor's, Walmart or shopping. Whatever we do, we pass by and see his grave,” he told News 12 after his speech.

The Lexington County father now travels the state spreading his son's legacy.

For many students here at South Aiken, the message hit home.

"I can't imagine losing someone like that, especially, someone that close. It's horrible,” Neiling said.

"Don't visit your son or your daughter in a graveyard. It's not fun; I promise you. It's cold. It's wet. It's depressing,” said Humphrey to parents.

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